Belfast Telegraph

Republic’s predictions for retailers ‘optimistic’

By Russell Lynch

The head of a retail industry body in the Republic has said predictions made earlier this year about the imminent return of like-for-like growth in the sector may have been “overly optimistic”.

David Fitzsimons, the chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), said this as his organisation released figures showing that in the second quarter of this year the pace of decline in retail sales began to pick up, reversing what he said was a trend of “modified decline” that had been evident in February and March.

“While it would be alarmist to describe the monthly pattern of rising decline as a ‘double dip', the figures prove that the market and the industry remain volatile,” he said.

According to the report compiled by REI, which includes a performance review of 360 retail companies representing about 2,500 stores in Ireland, like-for-like retail sales fell just over 2% in April, over 4.9% in May and nearly 5.5% in June.

While footwear sales had performed well in April and May, REI said the positive performance had been “wiped out” in June, with a sales decline of nearly 12.6%.

The average transaction value in the retail sector during the last quarter was €41.92, compared with €47.55 in the corresponding period of 2009, representing a 12% fall.

Mr Fitzsimons said that some positive findings emerged from the report, as wage costs and rents as a percentage of sales both declined.

However, he claimed that the chance of growth in the retail industry in the second half of the year is now “much less likely” than previously anticipated.

He said the retail sector required the “acute attention and assistance of the Government to get back on its feet”.

Belfast Telegraph